What Camera to Buy This Christmas

What is the most important thing about photography?  The camera, of course!

Buying the right camera is essential to being a successful photographer.  Many people break down camera selection into the SLR or point-and-shoot category.  Most people own a point-and-shoot camera for everyday pictures.

It’s true that you can take great images with a point-and-shoot camera, but let’s face it – the image quality of an SLR camera is superior hands down and should be used for professional shoots with models. Of course, a digital point-and-shoot camera is great to keep in your kit, but this buying guide will focus only on SLR cameras.

Here are our picks for the best DSLR cameras for professional photographers:

Canon 5D Mark III

$3,299.00 MSRP

  • 22.3 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-25,600 standard, expandable to 50 (L), 51200 (H1) and 102400 (H2)
  • Canon DIGIC 5+ Image Processor
  • 6 frame-per-second continuous shooting
  • Shutter rated to 150,000 frames
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic
  • 61 point High Density Reticular AF system
  • 63 zone iFCL metering system
  • 1040k dot 3:2 LCD
  • Dual card slots for CF and SD
  • The Canon EOS 5D Mark III makes a raft of improvements to the best-selling Mark II to become one of the most complete and well-balanced DSLRs around. Canon has upgraded just about every aspect of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III to deliver a supremely confident, very well-designed DSLR that’s a pleasure to use and delivers excellent results.

    Pros
    HD Video capabilities
    Upgraded auto-focus system
    Impressive low-light performance
    Large screen
    Cons
    Expensive compared to predecessor models
    Fewer Megapixels than some competitor cameras
    No built-in GPS

    Sony Alpha SLT-A99

    $2,798.00 MSRP

  • 24.3 Megapixel full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • On-chip phase detection AF
  • Full HD video at 60p
  • 2.4M dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • 6 frame-per-second continuous shooting
  • ISO-compatible flash hotshoe with ‘multi interface’ expansion connector
  • Pull-out three-hinge tilt/swivel 1.23m dot RGBW LCD screen
  • Dual SD/Memory Stick slots
  • Built-in GPS
  • The Sony Alpha SLT-A99 is the only full-frame camera to offer Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology™, allowing for faster frame rates and constant autofocus even in burst and movie modes.  With a checklist of amazing technology, Sony has finally released a camera strong enough to hold up to Nikon and Canon’s dominance in the professional marketplace.

    Pros
    Sensor shift image stabilization
    Quality HD capabilities
    Silent Multi-Controller
    In-camera panoramas
    Cons
    Translucent mirror has light-gathering disadvantages
    Not all lenses are compatible with the new AF (ex. 3D tracking mode)
    Smaller screen

    Nikon D800

    $2,999.00 MSRP

  • 36.3 Mexapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Advanced Scene Recognition System with 91,000 pixel metering sensor
  • ISO 100-6,400 standard, expandable to 50 (L), 12,800 (H1) and 25,600 (H2)
  • 3D Color Matrix Meter III with face recognition and a database of 30,000 images
  • 51-point Advanced Multi-CAM 3000FX AF system with 15 cross-type sensors, rated to -2EV
  • Shutter Durability: 200,000 cycles, self-diagnostic shutter
  • Dual card slots for CF and SD
  • 4 frame-per-second continuous shooting
  • 3.2 inch, 921,000 dot LCD screen with anti-fog layer
  • Full 1080p HD @ 30, 25 or 24 fps with HDMI output and audio monitoring
  • Nikon’s D800 raises the bar of what we can expect from a DSLR in terms of still image quality; its 36 Megapixel images are absolutely jam-packed with detail with surprisingly little noise.  Nikon has greatly improved the video recording capabilities with the D800, but this camera stands out as a still-shooting gem.

    Pros
    Excellent detail resolution and dynamic range
    Large images
    Cons
    Large file sizes limits continuous shooting rate
    No in-camera rating
    Light sensitivity inferior to some competitor models

    Conclusion

    You probably don’t want the Nikon D800 if you’re a sport shooter, since it has a frame rate of only 4fps.  However, the Nikon D800 has significantly better image quality than either the Canon EOS 5D Mark III or the Sony Alpha SLT-A99, due to its highly impressive 36 Megapixel sensor.  If you’re a serious still shooter, landscape shooter, or need a high level of detail, this camera is for you.

    For new or amateur photographers, the Sonly Alpha SLT-A99 is probably your best choice.  Not only is it the least expensive camera of the bunch, but the user interface, flip-out screen, GPS geo-tagging and ergonomic design make it a joy to shoot with.  It has all the hardware of a serious DSLR camera with lots of nice features for new photographers.

    The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the camera for the photographer who wants to do it all.  The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is an extremely versatile photographic tool that is capable of great results in many shooting situations – from landscape and wildlife to studio portraits and action photography.  The ability to customize the camera interface, the powerful processor and AF system, and wider ISO range really makes the Canon EOS 5D Mark III the top choice.

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